Accountability in context: Effects of research evaluation systems on publication practices, disciplinary norms and individual working routines in the faculty of Arts at Uppsala University

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Given the increased role of bibliometric measures in research evaluation, it is striking that studies of actual changes in research practice are rare. Most studies and comments on ‘a metric culture’ in academia focus on the ideological and political level, and there is a clear shortage of empirical studies that analyze how researchers handle demands for accountability in context. In adopting a mixed-methods approach involving both bibliometric data and answers form questionnaires, we provide an in-depth study of how researchers at the faculty of Arts at Uppsala University (Sweden) respond to the implementation of performance-based research evaluation systems. Publication patterns from 2006 to 2013 show that journal publications, especially English-language ones, are increasing, and the proportion of peer-reviewed publications has doubled. These changes are in line with the incentives of the evaluation systems under study. Answers to the survey confirm that scholars are conscious about this development, and several respondents articulate a disagreement between disciplinary norms and external demands. However, disciplinary background as well as career stage or academic age appears to have a significant influence on how individual researchers react to the instigation of evaluation systems. Finally, responses to national and local evaluation regimes are complex, localized, and dependent on many factors. In-depth contextualized studies of research practices are needed in order to understand how performance-based funding systems influence academic research on the ground.

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